Question: The climate is changing for the better in Russia. You have a good opportunity to sell quotas under the scheme proposed by the Kyoto Protocol, because Russia has very low levels of industrial emissions of pollutants. This would be a good opportunity for investing in the high-technology sector.
Vladimir Putin: I think that if we join forces to solve problems on a global scale such as climate change brought about by man-made processes, then we should be guided above all by noble aims and ideas rather than by short-lived economic advantages.
Today Russia has the opportunity to sell some quotas. We hope that tomorrow it will not have such an opportunity, or will have it to a more modest extent, because we hope that the Russian economy will grow. That is why we don’t want to take decisions based on just these budget considerations. We are working on this matter. You know that we have signed the Kyoto agreements. We think that this is definitely a move in the right direction. At the same time, our specialists have to calculate how the situation will look today if we ratify the agreements, what problems Russia could face or run up against in the near future.
Specialists, too, are still debating this subject, but we have to listen to all the different points of view. Some say that even if fully implemented, the Kyoto Protocol will not have an impact on the negative climate change processes taking place. World-renowned specialists share this view and say that we can only have a minimal impact on these processes, even if the Kyoto Protocol is observed. They give a figure of only 1–2 percent.
The worst thing, though, would be to do nothing at all. The initiators and participants in the Kyoto process have made an important and positive contribution to protecting the environment. This sends a powerful and good signal to the international community. And we want to participate in this process.
The question is about making sure that our own interests are heard. I have already said before that Russia has a huge amount of forests, and specialists know what this means. We are in a position to have a very positive impact on the world’s environment, and we are doing this thanks to our natural factors. This should also be taken into account, as should Russia’s other concerns. We are carrying on a positive dialogue with our partners and we hope that it will result in a positive decision.
Question: Mr President, thank you for your encouraging words about research and design work. Could you give a bit more detail about this subject, especially as concerns software production and the conditions for foreign investors in this sector?
Vladimir Putin: I don’t think we should single out some specific directions and sectors or create special conditions for particular sectors of the economy. We want to create favourable general conditions for the whole economy. No one should benefit from some kind of preferential treatment.
In this sense, I think the area you are involved in is a very promising sector for development here in Russia. We all know about Russia’s mathematics school and its programmers. This is a good foundation for us to bring these activities here to Russia, rather than having all the programmers go off to the Silicon Valley. There half of them are running around and asking themselves what to do next.
You need to be working here and develop this sector here in Russia. If there are some specific requests, I am sure that the Government, and all of us have an interest in developing this sector, is ready to examine specific questions regarding the organisation of your work.
Question: Mr President, you have done a lot for Russia and have made many decisions. That’s very important for us, it’s important for foreign investors. As far as I know, the Government has been instructed to achieve greater predictability not only at the federal, but also at the regional level, because unpredictability is a problem for investors.
Vladimir Putin: In my speech I said that Russia’s credit rating is rising, and spoke of political stability. I must say that we value this very much. I want to say that in the future, we will do all we can to ensure that our economy and society develop in predictable and stable conditions, both economic and political.
But this does not mean that we are just going to curl up under a warm blanket of petrodollars. We are going to develop our economy. We will set ourselves a tough programme of objectives, but we think these are goals that we can achieve.
This means that we will continue with tax reform and that we will make greater efforts to resolve the tasks we have not yet managed to tackle successfully in administrative reform. It also means that we will strengthen our judicial system, and we hope that all these measures together will have a positive impact.
That is the main thing I wanted to say here, bearing in mind that most of you here today and those who will hear us through the media will probably be wondering more and more what will happen in Russia after the elections to the State Duma in December, and after the presidential elections in March next year.
I want to say again that we will do everything to keep the situation stable, but we don’t want development to stop there, we want development to be effective. That is the main point I wanted to make in answering your question.
Question: We signed several contracts with Russian companies before the war in Iraq began. We don’t know now what the situation in Iraq is, and what will the Russian Government do to back these contracts signed with the Iraqi Government?
Vladimir Putin: I didn’t really understand the question. You signed contracts with Russian companies?
Question: We signed a contract to explore deposits in the north of Iraq. We invested a certain amount of money in this and now we don’t know if these contracts will be extended. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Now I understand. I don’t know that I can add anything to what I and other Russian representatives have already said at various levels over the last few months. But I will set out Russia’s position once again.
We think that the work now going on in the United Nations Security Council on adopting a new resolution should lead to the international community, through the Security Council, gaining real opportunities to take part in rebuilding Iraq. In this case, we suppose that contracts signed earlier could still be used and should be used to help rebuild the country.
What’s more, I am personally convinced that if we take this road, we could have some success, even if only a small success, in rebuilding Iraq because, to be frank, the people in Iraq feel a lot more trust in their traditional partners than in those who control the situation there today.
That is a serious factor that we should all take into account. I must say that our partners, including our American partners, understand this. They also very much want to improve the situation there as soon as possible. I think we should proceed very carefully so as not to create a power vacuum there. But the international community, through the United Nations, should be given a greater role.
A conference of donors for the rebuilding of Iraq is to take place at the end of October. It would very good to adopt a UN Security Council resolution on Iraq before then.
We still have time for this; we’re only at the beginning of the month. Our specialists say that everyone involved in this process wants a positive outcome. So far, we are not satisfied with the draft resolution our American partners have proposed. But we do see, including from them, a willingness to reach a compromise. I think that if we let these considerations guide us, then we most certainly will be able to find a compromise. I am counting on this.
Question: Allow me to ask you the last question. When we meet again, hopefully in two years time, what achievement would make you particularly proud, and what would you share with your audience?
Vladimir Putin: This flows on naturally from what I have been saying up until now. I have been talking about the problems we have solved and those we have still to solve. Of course, I would like us to be able to speak positively about the objectives we have set before us today. In the economy, this means achieving the corresponding rate of GDP growth, and as far as concerns putting in place the conditions for achieving this growth, this depends on the success of our administrative reform. This is one of our key tasks today. But I must add that we can give no firm guarantee that we will achieve all of this in two years.
This task covers too many areas at once for us to be able to resolve it by simply passing one, two or even hundreds of good and intelligent laws. These laws need to work not just on paper, but in people’s heads. They have to become part of our consciousness and the everyday fabric of our lives. This is a question of changing our mentality, and I don’t think it can be done in just two years.
But I very much do hope that in two years we will see some positive trends. They are already taking shape in various directions. I already said that investment has risen by 12%. I cannot say that we have the best investment conditions in the world. We know that investment growth in China came to 38%. But if we break investment down per capita, then we get $1,000 per person in China, while we have $3,000 per person. True, the Czech Republic has $5,000 per person. In this respect, we should look to the best examples. We have to create the best conditions possible for attracting capital and labour in all sectors.
One of the key areas for our work today is to change the state’s attitude to the economy and to everything that is happening in it. We need to end pressure from the state on the economy. We need to carry out careful and competent administrative reform while maintaining stability in the economy and in society. This is not an easy task, but I am sure that we will be up to it.